Infobox Former Arab villages in Palestine

date=early November, 1948 [Benny Morris (2004): "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited", p. XVII. Morris also gives cause(s) of depopulation.]
curlocl=Shomera, Even Menachem, Goren

Iqrit ( _ar. إقرت or إقرث, "Iqrith") was a Palestinian village, located 25 kilometers northeast of Acre. Originally allotted to form part of an Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, it was captured and depopulated by Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.cite book|title="Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948"|author=Meron Benvenisti|year=2002|publisher=University of California Press|isbn=0-520-23422-7]


Archeological sites

Iqrit contains mosaic floors, remains of a wine press, rock-hewn tombs, cisterns, and granite implements. The village also has many other archaeological sites in its vicinity. The Canaanites erected a statue for the god Melqart of Tyre in the village. When the Crusaders occupied Iqrit, they called it Acref. Açref is a name still commonly used for the village among surrounding Bedouin tribes. After the Crusaders left, Iqrit remained devastated, until it was re-built, joining the county of Tibnin, district of Safad in 1596. At this time, its population numbered 374 people with an economy dependent largely on goats, beehives and agriculture. There was a press used for both olive and grape production. The population dropped to about 100 people by the late nineteenth century. The village area contained numerous archaeological sites.

Early twentieth century

Like a number of other villages in the neighborhood, Iqrit was linked to the coastal highway from Acre to Ras an-Naqura via a secondary road leading to Tarbikha. There were 339 people living in 50 houses in 1931 and that number rose to 490 by 1945. At the moment of their eviction in November 1948, there were 491 citizens in Iqrit, 432 of them Greek Catholics, inhabiting the entire area of the village. Some of the 59 Muslims of the village rented their homes in Iqrit, while others built their houses in esh-Shafaya.

Only part of the village land was cultivated and the rest was covered with woods of oak, laurel and carob trees. By 1948, the village owned about 600 dunams (600,000 m²) of private property with groves of fig trees that served all inhabitants of Iqrit and the surroundings. The groves covered the hill of al-Bayad, and the remaining cultivated land was used for crops of lentils, as well as tobacco and other fruit trees.

There were a private elementary school which was administrated by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, two natural water springs, many other water-wells for collected rainwater within the village area, including a large pool for rainwater. There were many threshing floors mainly located between the built-up village lands and the cemetery.

The big Greek Orthodox church remain standing.

Capture and expulsion

According to Morris, the villagers of Iqrit were outright expelled by the Israeli Army in November 1948, (together with the villagers of Kafr Bir'im, Nabi Rubin, Tarbikha) "without Cabinet knowledge, debate, or approval" - though, almost inevitably, they received "post facto " Cabinet endorsement."cite book|title=1948 and after; Israel and the Palestinians|author=Benny Morris|page=281|publisher=Oxford University Press|year=1994] While some of the former inhabitants of Iqrit became refugees in Lebanon, most are now internally displaced Palestinians who are also citizens of Israel. Iqrit was captured on October 31 1948 by the Haganah's Oded Brigade during Operation Hiram, an Israeli offensive which advanced on the coastal road towards Lebanon. Iqrit and Tarbikha surrendered and the villagers stayed in their homes. That 'luxury' did not last for long. Iqrit and a number of other villages in the region fell victims to a policy known as "an Arabless border strip". Fact|date=August 2008

Trucked away never to return

Six days after its surrender, on 5 November 1948, the Israeli Army ordered the villagers to evacuate the village, and that they would be returned in two weeks, time when the military operations are over. Some went to Lebanon and the Israeli Army trucked the majority to Rame, a town between Acre and Safad.

In July 1951, the villagers of Iqrit pleaded their case before Israel's Supreme Court, and the court ruled in favour of the right to return to their village. After this judgement, the Military Government found another justification to prevent them from returning. The villagers appealed to the Supreme Court again and were scheduled to have their case considered on 6 February 1952. However, on Christmas Day in 1951, Israeli Defense Forces took the mukhtar of Iqrit to the top of a nearby hill to force him to watch as Israeli troops blew up every house in the village.cite journal|title=Iqrit and Bir Am: A Christmas Tale With a Moral|author=Richard Curtiss|journal=Washington Report on Middle East Affairs|date=December 1987|pages=65|url=]

In his book "Blood Brothers", Father Elias Chacour, who was a child away at school at the time, records the story of what happened, as told to him by his brothers:

cquote|"For the second time, the village elders marched across the hill and presented the order to the Zionist soldiers...Without question or dispute, the commanding officer read the order. He shrugged. 'This is fine...We need some time to pull out. You can return on the 25th.'

On Christmas! What an incredible Christmas gift for the village. The elders fairly ran across the hill to Gish to spread the news. At long last they would all be going home. The Christmas Eve vigil became a celebration of thanksgiving and joyful praise. On Christmas morning...bundled in sweaters and old coats supplied by the Bishop's relief workers, the villagers gathered in the first light of day...Mother, Father, Wardi, and my brothers all joined in singing a jubilant Christmas hymn as they mounted the hill...At the top of the hill their hymn trailed into silence...Why were the soldiers still there? In the distance, a soldier shouted, and they realized they had been seen. A cannon blast sheared the silence. Then another—a third...Tank shells shrieked into the village, exploding in fiery destruction. Houses blew apart like paper. Stones and dust flew amid the red flames and billowing black smoke. One shell slammed into the side of the church, caving in a thick stone wall and blowing off half the roof. The bell tower teetered, the bronze bell knelling, and somehow held amid the dust clouds and cannon fire... Then all was silent—except for the weeping of women and the terrified screams of babies and children.

Mother and Father stood shaking, huddled together with Wardi and my brothers. In a numbness of horror, they watched as bulldozers plowed through the ruins, knocking down much of what had not already blown apart or tumbled. At last, Father said—to my brothers or to God, they were never sure—'Forgive them.' Then he led them back to Gish."|40px|40px|Father Elias Chacour

In its third verdict (Feb. 1952), the court blamed the villagers for depending on promises from the military ruler of Galilee, instead of benefiting from the "legal medication" which was "given" to them by the court in its first relevant verdict.

Aftermath to the present-day

A number of Jewish settlements were built near or on the village's land. They are Shomera (1949 on Tarbikha ruins), Even Menachem (1960) and Gornot HaGalil (1980).

Today, only the building of Greek Catholic Church still stands. There is rubble from the destroyed houses and some fig, grape, almond, olive and other orchards. On the shoulder looking at the road passing by from the north, the cemetery of Iqrit is still located, fenced and annually maintained. There is a cowshed that belongs to the settlement of Shomera, on the western entrance of the village, as well.

The first legal action against the state of Israel was brought in 1951 by 5 men of Iqrit when Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari acting as their lawyer was instrumental in gaining the right of return for the men of Iqrit. On 31 July 1951 the Israeli courts recognised the rights of the villagers to their land and their right to return to it. The court said the land was not abandoned and therefore could not be placed under the custodian of enemy property. [ [,%20Refugees%20within%20Israel.pdf Joseph L. Ryan, S.J.] "Refugees within Israel: The Case of the Villages of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit" in 2, no. 4 (Sum. 73): 55-81.]

In the 1970s, villagers from Iqrit conducted a series of sit-ins in the town's former church over a period of six years, and the case of Iqrit (and of Kafr Biri'm) was frequently covered by the Israeli media.cite web|title=Case-owners, not land-owners|publisher=Ittijah|date=18 July 2003|accessdate=2008-01-28|url=] Several prominent Israeli cultural and artistic figures supported the movement to repatriate the Iqrit villagers and public empathy for their plight was widespread. While the Israeli authorities recognized the right to return of the villagers in principle, officials resisted implementing this right. Said Golda Meir in 1972:

It is not only consideration of security [that prevent] an official decision regarding Bi'rim and Iqrit, but the desire to avoid [setting] a precedent. We cannot allow ourselves to become more and more entangled and to reach a point from which we are unable to extricate ourselves."cite book|title="Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948"|author=Meron Benvenisti|publisher=University of California Press|year=2000|pages=325-326|isbn=0520211545]
Meron Benvenisti notes how it has been argued that the villagers of Iqrit and Bi'rim are not the only present-absentees in Israel, and therefore recognizing their right of return is perceived as setting a "dangerous precedent" that would be followed by other similar demands. However, Benvenisti himself has argued that it could be a positive precedent if the Iqrit villagers were to be allocated the small amount of empty land they need to establish a community settlement on their own land. [Meron Benvenisti: [ The High Court and fear of return] , 3 July 2003, Haaretz]

In 2003, some of Iqrit's villagers repetitioned the Supreme Court so as to facilitate their return to Iqrit, but the petition was rejected by the court. Villagers continue to hold out hope for their right of return. Recently, four families built their houses opposite the village from west, on a side hill of al-Bayad.


Additional bibliography

*Sabri Jiryis: "The Arabs in Israel" 1st American edition 1976 ISBN 0-85345-377-2 (updated from the 1966 ed.) With a foreword by Noam Chomsky. (First English edition; Beirut, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1968). Chapter 4.

External links

* [ Iqrit Heritage Society]
* [ Iqrit] Palestine Remembered
* [ Justice for Ikrit and Biram] Haaretz, 10 October 2001 he icon
* [ Clinging to dream of Palestine village] BBC News, 23 April 2008

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